The Fire This Time
Alex Jones is anxious. He’s waiting for an elevator last Tuesday morning at the National Press Building to take him to the 13th floor, surrounded by six or seven men in suits who are either in his security detail or part of his fan base. “I gotta go the bathroom,” he growls in that deep voice immediately recognizable to anyone who has heard his rants on the internet. The doors close, and up he goes.
A minute later, Jones enters the staid old club, where the walls are adorned with blowup reproductions of famous newspaper headlines from the past and pictures of prominent people who’ve spoken from its dais. Jones is accompanied by Roger Stone, a political fixer who once worked closely with Donald Trump, and about two dozen hard-core followers who call themselves “citizen journalists.” The event is billed on his Infowars site as a major expose: “DEMOCRAT PLAN TO REPEAL FIRST AMENDMENT DISCOVERED,” the headline blares.
That’s a reference to a lawsuit filed against Jones and Infowars by Brennan Gilmore, a Democratic activist in Charlottesville. He filmed the horrific footage last August of a white supremacist driving his car into a crowd protesting the racist rally in that city, and killing a young woman, Heather Heyer. In March, Gilmore took to the courts, claiming in the Washington Post that Jones and other conspiracy websites have smeared him because they “wanted to portray me as a ‘deep state’ operative motivated by a desire to undermine President Trump and his administration.”
“It’s incredible who is funding this lawsuit,” says Jones, opening his event with the announcement that his lawyers have just filed their own case in federal court to counter Gilmore and his lawyers at the Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic. “But some of this stuff is so amazing that we don’t want to release it quite yet.” Besides, as soon becomes clear, Jones’s theme today is much broader.
Jones and his friends are here to defend America, the Constitution, and President Trump from an evil cabal out to destroy them all. That assault, in their minds, is being led by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the leftist and antifa groups he allegedly funds, along with the “Maoists” who’ve taken over the nation’s universities, the mainstream media (particularly CNN) and the social media giants who own the internet.
They’re all working in synch, we’re told, with renegade “globalists” at the FBI, the Department of Justice and the CIA to undermine and destroy free speech in this country and remove Donald Trump from office. Lurking like a shadow over the event is Monday’s FBI raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and what the conspiracy theorists consider a Democratic plot to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
The Infowars lawyers and reporters claim to be victims of harassment.
“This is about the slow-motion coup going on in this country,” Roger Stone gravely warns as he follows Jones at the top of the press conference. Next comes Jerome Corsi, one of the right’s favorite critics of President Obama and an Infowars editor. “We’re at the beginning of a second American revolution, waged by millions of anonymous voices across the country putting their voices behind freedom,” he declares.
These remarks, it turns out, are just the opening salvos in a nearly two-hour harangue, mostly from Jones, on their paranoid view of government and society, interspersed with speeches and lesser harangues by the Infowars lawyers and Infowars reporters who claim to be victims of harassment. Jones, who is wearing his trademark white shirt with an open collar, grows more animated by the minute.
The censorship plot began even before the 2016 election, he claims, citing a conversation with Matt Drudge (apparently a mentor of some sort). Congress was planning, once Hillary Clinton got elected, to “end the First Amendment, go after everybody’s free speech and create internet ghettoes.” Hillary “didn’t get in,” he adds, “but they’re still trying to execute the operation.” And now “this is a rolling snowball that’s beginning to censor everybody.”
But it’s not just “the left.” The plot to silence him is the “perfect storm” of the “dying corporate media, the establishment newspapers,” lined up with the CEOs “like the head of NewsCorp” (which owns Fox News), who have decided “they’re going to end internet freedom because they can’t compete. So that’s the big announcement. They’ve chosen WikiLeaks and they’ve chosen Infowars to take down, and when they take us down, they take everybody down.”
“And that’s why there’s no corporate media here,” Jones continues, his voice rising. “They’ve been told this is the business plan. We’re going to demonize and brand all media we disagree with as racist or as fake news or as Russian so we can shut it down. And then everything else will be shut down, and everyone will be forced to watch us like you’re forced to watch CNN at bus stops and train stations and even at Trump Tower.”
Mention of the president’s residence in New York, where he had dinner the night before, sets him off on another trademark tirade. As Jones rambles on, I look around the room and count twenty-six people and seven cameras, three of which are broadcasting live. Except for one photographer I recognize from the press club (which, as Jones notes, has removed its usual logo from the stage) everyone seems to be part of the Jones entourage. And on and on it goes.
Stone comes back to rail against the “tech left and Silicon Valley” and—somewhat inexplicably—confirms that he does indeed have a tattoo of his “mentor,” Richard Nixon. “I’m the only person in the world with a dick in front and in back,” he says, to great laughter. In the only mention of actual policy, Stone praises Trump’s plan for talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (which I wrote about here a month ago). “We’re on the verge of peace and prosperity,” he declares. “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
He’s followed by another line of speakers. Gateway Pundit reporter Lucian Wintrich, who recently attacked the student anti-gun activists in Parkland, Florida, as “little pricks,” angrily tells the room how he’s been denied membership to this very press club. Millie Weaver, an Infowars reporter, describes her experience in Charlottesville—an account that’s remarkably close to Trump’s own description of the events there. “There was violence on both sides,” she says, “but the majority was from the antifa communist protesters.”
Lee Stranahan, who co-hosts a show called Fault Lines on Russian-owned Sputnik International, pleads for the people in the room to “take this [threat] seriously,” pointing to recent stories that the Department of Homeland Security is compiling lists of journalists and media influencers to monitor. A reporter from Crowdsource the Truth (one of the live-streamers) claims, based on sources from DHS, that the permits for the “March for Your Lives” demonstration organized by the survivors from Stoneman Douglas High School were actually filed “prior to the shooting.”
He turns to hug and kiss the American flag behind him.
By this point, we’ve been here for an hour and a half, and there’s still been no questions, let alone revelations. After another lawyer (whose name I didn’t get) mentions the countersuit against Gilmore, Jones, who’s been wandering in and out of the room all this time, suddenly seems to realize why he’s here. “That’s the big news today, and I don’t know why I didn’t say it earlier,” he says. “This is a SLAPP lawsuit”—i.e., a strategic lawsuit to suppress public participation; a tactic favored among deep-pocketed plaintiffs seeking to shut down sources of adverse criticism.
That sparks still another tirade that touches on Google (“set up by the CIA and the inter-spatial unit of NASA”), Reddit (“rigged”) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is testifying today to Congress (“he had six armed guards and private security, but he doesn’t want you to have guns”). Then, finally—finally—it’s time for questions.
After a few friendly queries from other bloggers in the room, Jones points to Cliff Kincaid, a right-wing journalist who’s been in D.C. for decades and specializes in red-baiting hit pieces. I recognize him immediately: back in 1983, when I was new to Washington, he almost got me fired from my job with Ralph Nader for criticizing the CIA and praising Fidel Castro (I chronicled that miserable experience on my blog a few years ago).
Kincaid still hates his reds, and he pounces on the people in the room who “go on Russian media.” Before he even has a chance to ask his question, the whole room, led by Jones, erupts. As several people hiss “straw man,” Stranahan jumps up to declare that everything he says on Sputnik is factual. Jones, as usual, has the last word, and admits that he often “publishes whole” articles from RT, the Russian cable channel that’s been forced by the Justice Department to register as a foreign propaganda agent.
That’s not a problem, he insists, because “I’m American.” To emphasize his love for the country, he turns to hug and kiss the American flag behind him. That seems like an appropriate time to make my exit, and I walk out with Jones’s denunciation of the liberal media still ringing in my ears.
“You have an existential need to see America fall because you hate it, and because you’re the traitors hired to bring it down,” he shouts. “So that’s the reality, we will win, you will fail, and we will break your asses up.” The whole room cheers, ready for the next battle in their fight for America’s soul.